BMA warns long shifts endanger performance of junior doctors

Junior doctors are jeopardising their performance by working long hours, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned.

The BMA said new doctors were often working 13-hour shifts. The introduction of the European health and safety legislation in 2003, which stated that junior doctors could not work more than 58 hours a week, had created new problems, the BMA said.

“Most [junior doctors] are still close to the top of this limit,” a spokesman said.

“Shift systems have been introduced, and it is common for junior doctors to work at full intensity for up to 13 hours, which can have an effect on their performance and decision-making.”

Many hospitals have also removed rooms where junior doctors could rest during a long shift, the BMA said.

The warning followed a death at Leeds General Infirmary in December 2003. The patient, Tony Wright, died after a doctor accidentally gave him an insulin overdose. The doctor made the fatal mistake after working a 100-hour week.


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